Sustainability metrics

Published and last updated on January 11, 2013

Creating and participating in a sustainability program have been important steps taken by our company. The most important step is to establish meaningful sustainability metrics and indexes to help measure our progress.

As an industry, Web hosting encompasses thousands of providers worldwide, but there are few if any established metrics available to and against which a Web host can measure their own performance with respect to energy conservation, efficiency per customer or server type, and from this data gain a holistic perspective known as a Sustainability Index.

The following graphs help illustrate our operating history and how we are improving our business on its path to sustainability.

This first graph shows our increasing energy consumption over the past five years and its increase is due to the simple fact our business grew in that time. This number is important because electricity is the most precious resource available that we use. As a matter of sustainability we need to actively manage how much energy we use and determine ways to better use or even reduce that amount as we move forward.

The graph also illustrates that starting in the fall of 2008, the consumption growth rate of electricity began slowing down. This was due in part to a slowdown of demand for dedicated infrastructure (a wasteful component of our service line) but also due to us transitioning in newer server equipment of our own design that requires less energy. For example, as our infrastructure grew by 30%, our additional energy demand for that growth only increased by 20 to 25%. As we moved into 2010, energy demand really started slowing down as we took offline older equipment and implemented newer servers offering even greater energy savings. Now in 2013, energy demand has flatlined and even dropped, as we continue the trend of replacing older equipment with newer, more efficient servers.

Building on the first graph, the new graph shows a marked decrease in average energy usage per individual server in our hosting environment. As a general rule, computer technology is increasingly efficient due to micronization of hardware components (such as transistor width in CPUs) or smaller and more efficient power supplies that provide more stable service with fewer energy fluctuations or spikes.

Beyond this, we have continuously implemented server and infrastructure hardware that requires less electricity while providing equivalent or better performance when compared to older technologies. This has required that we not use “off the shelf” servers, but instead that we design and hand-build them ourselves. This way, we can research what servers work best for our hosting environment, “hand tweak” their configurations, if you will to optimize efficiency, and perform our own benchmark tests so we have statistical data to ensure the newer servers are truly an improvement in the right direction.

With an average server drawing 2.1Amps of electricity in 2005, and the newest servers drawing only 0.7 to 0.8Amps, this means that moving forward we can fit three times as many servers into the same energy footprint from five years ago. The savings are dramatic, when you multiply that by recent as well as projected growth.

The final graph is the metric that tells the real story of what our sustainability program is about. As our business has grown, and our energy efficiency per server improved, so has our capacity to handle more and more customers per energy unit. Despite using six times as much energy as in 2005, our reduction in overall energy usage per server has enabled rapid growth of our customer base as measured in total Web sites we host.

Our capacity of sites per Amp is now almost ten times what it was in 2005. This means the energy footprint per Web site (and in most cases, per customer of our shared Web hosting service) has dropped to 1/10 of what it used to be. What does this mean to the average customer? As a result of our sustainability program, actively researching more efficient technologies, and reducing our demand of new energy per new customer, Canvas Host clients are truly hosting their sites and services with a greener Web host. They can say to their customers that their site is sustainably powered and hosted in an environment friendlier manner as compared to any other Web hosts that do not have metrics or that do not participate in such a sustainability program.

Publishing information like this can open a company up to a lot of scrutiny. There may be other Web hosts that, for example, have metrics that are “better” than those we have published here. Whether or not that is the case, sustainability is not about reaching for the superlative, it is about recognizing what is feasible within a company’s organizational and operational goals, reaching for those goals, and then improving on it all over again. As we move into the future, Canvas Host is committed to continuing down the path to sutainability. As we do so, we’ll continue publishing metrics on our Web site to demonstrate transparency and report on our progress.

Please contact us if you have any questions about the metrics and indexes reported on this page, or if you’d like to learn more about our Sustainability Program as a whole.